Gather Together

The Gather Together project was funded as part of Brightlife’s ‘Bright Ideas’ strand. This fund encouraged local groups, voluntary organisations and businesses to come forward with ideas to reduce isolation and loneliness for older people within areas or communities of interest.

Gather Together was delivered by Haylo Theatre, a two-woman community theatre company specialising in performances and workshops about difficult subjects, with an award of £19,715.

Key learning

  • Care home staff may inadvertently discriminate against residents by making decisions for them about what they are capable of doing.
  • Enabling workshop participants to dictate the type and nature of activities can increase engagement with the project.
  • Introducing an intergenerational element to a project can be an effective way to increase engagement and improve outcomes.

 

Development and delivery

Gather Together was designed to encourage people over the age of 50 to engage in creative experiences that develop social bonds and preserve a sense of identity.

Participants were recruited through distribution of flyers and posters and through an outreach campaign for residential care homes. The project team reported encountering some resistance from care home staff, who assumed that some residents would not be able to participate or would have little to contribute; this was overcome by explaining how workshops could be adapted to meet individual needs.

A series of weekly performing arts workshops for over-50s were set up. Decisions about the type and focus of activities in each workshop were led by participants.

During one workshop, participants were invited to take part in a letter-writing activity to help them explore their identities when they were younger. The group decided to send their letters to the children at a local primary school: while this had not originally been planned, it demonstrated the transformative power the arts can have in bringing school children and the older generation together to share experiences.

“The process of writing the letter to the primary school […] encouraged dialogue such as: ‘Who remembers that, did anyone else do this?’ and served as a catalyst to discuss the past and future. This intergenerational activity brought the added dimension of connecting the young and old together through a shared experience of going to school, albeit at different times.”

Haylo Theatre

A ‘show back’ event was produced at the end of the project delivery period to showcase the work produced by participants. A book was also produced to document the process of workshop development and delivery, with a view to selling copies to inform creative practice within residential and community settings.

 

Impact and legacy

The project team reported that many participants said they had discovered a newfound sense of confidence, pride and joy as a result of taking part in the project.

“Haylo Theatre are passionate about implicating change for the good, and as the Gather Together project proved, we are able to transform isolated, unfocused or disengaged individuals into a group of people who successfully share their passions and experiences, listen to each other, and think of the past, present and future with hope and joy. We want our work to inspire people to dance out of the door with a tune in their head, laugh at old jokes, prompt new questions and most of all create self-worth.”

Haylo Theatre

As a result of the experience and confidence gained by delivering the Gather Together project, the Haylo Theatre team are now planning to offer ‘Gather Together’ workshops to a wider audience, tailored for different age groups and demographics.

They are also writing and developing a theatrical production exploring the narratives of socially isolated people (with contributions from the Gather Together project participants informing the final piece), to inspire and encourage other communities in the region to address isolation.

 

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Haylo Theatre